Organizing Your Medical Records & History

This is going to be complicated, but it’s important. If you aren’t up for this right now, get some help. Somebody needs to do these things. Whether you’ve not yet seen a psychiatrist or you’ve already seen several over the course of years you need to keep all your medical records, psychiatric and non-psychiatric, nice and organized for three very important reasons:

  • Taxes.
  • Applying for SSDI / SSI benefits, state disability or company disability benefits.
  • When you talk to your doctor it is so much easier to both prepare a script for your appointment and to answer any questions your doctor may have for you when you have your medical history all together in one place. The more complicated your history and your diagnosis or diagnoses the more difficult it is to keep it all in your head. And, like it or not, doctors don’t always believe patients about stuff. Especially mentally ill patients. You need proof that something happened to you, otherwise you stand a very good chance of getting the same damn medication that didn’t do you any damn good if you happen to switch doctors and your records haven’t caught up with you.

I’ve been there.  I’ve had doctors not believe me.  I’ve been with Mouse when doctors have not believed her about stuff, but when I would confirm that, yes, she really did have that wacky side effect or that stuff really did happen to her and she wasn’t being paranoid, then they would take her seriously.  Why?  Because there was confirmation?  Because I wasn’t coming across as crazy as she was at those times?   Some of both?

When you’re mentally ill you’re a shit magnet, that’s all there is to it.  People who aren’t mentally ill have a hard time wrapping their heads around that.  They just don’t get that all this crap really does happen to us.  It’s our livesand it is not just in our goddamn heads!  In her career in the health services (hah!) industry my mother for a time worked with mentally ill outpatients, and dealt with a lot of the bipolar community.  In a conversation we had she told me some of their stories and in comparing notes with the lives of the bipolar people I know the experiences she related were not all that outrageous.  “So they’re all true?” she asked.

“Maybe a tad embellished,” I replied, “because sometimes things get exaggerated in the retelling.  Everybody does that, it’s a human trait, not a bipolar one.”

“So when they say, ‘It was red’ you can be sure that it was at least pink,” she said.

“Exactly.”

“I had no idea.”

“Nobody believes us because we’re crazy.  But this stuff happens to us anyway, perhaps because we’re crazy.  Then it makes us seem even crazier.  Then we get frustrated with doctors and therapists and therapy, get the wrong meds or don’t stay med compliant, and it just piles up and really does make us crazier.”

OK, so what do we save and how do we save it for each reason? What sort of stuff should we be writing down and how? When should we get started doing this?

As for when, the answer is right now. It doesn’t matter where you are in the process of dealing with your mental illness. If you’re all freaked out and haven’t yet seen a doctor, get somebody to help you with this and start now. If you’ve been seeing plenty of doctors and are well on your way to mental health, start now anyway. Reconstruct your history as best you can, just get it organized!

Here’s what you should be saving and how you should be organizing. These are guidelines that have worked for me and Mouse. Modify to fit your own life circumstances, of course, but we think they’re pretty good tips.

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